Rublev and Khachanov made good starts in Washington

Rublev and Khachanov made good starts in Washington

A good day for Russian tennis players in the US tournaments

The US Open, the main event of the American hard-court season, is already in full swing across the Atlantic. And at the beginning of August the leaders of tennis began to come to the court. Some players came across the Atlantic after Wimbledon, but it’s hard to call the men’s tournaments in Newport and Atlanta representative. Most of the top players devoted July to rest and preparation. But now the last summer month has begun, and now things are serious.

Masterclass by Rublev

The main events of the week are concentrated in Washington. The US capital hosts both the ATP 500 and WTA 250. Men’s tradition is much more serious – it has been held for more than half a century. Interestingly, during that time it has never been won by the Russians. And even the finals only twice, with an interval of 20 years. In 1999, Evgeny Kafelnikov lost to Andre Agassi, who became champion here a record five times, and in 2019, Daniil Medvedev lost to the Australian scandalous Nick Kiryos.

Now Russia’s Andrei Rublev, generally considered a master of the “half-thousandths,” is seeded No. 1 in D.C. He began his “trek to Washington” with a match against Britain’s Jack Draper. We all got used to thinking of Andrei as a young tennis player but Draper is a representative of the next generation: this very impressive player, over 190 cm tall and weighing about 90 kilos, is four years younger than Rublev.

Draper is still little known to those who do not follow men’s tennis outside the ATP Tour. But he’s already won seven futures titles and four Challenger titles this season, putting him in the top 100. Interestingly, he has fewer than three dozen matches on tour, but has already lost to Rublev at the ground level Masters in Madrid. The Briton was able to snatch the first set from Andrei and did his best.

There was no reason to think this match would be easy for Rublev. The first set confirmed that. Though the Russian had more than enough confidence in his serve, his serve serve game was completely absent. For the whole set he only took five draws in the “other side’s” games.

Rublev tried to constantly put pressure on his opponent, forcing him to make mistakes with his aggression and earning break points. But Draper won them back time after time – even a triple in the crucial ninth game. It was only his seventh attempt that brought Andrei luck, his opponent failed to hit a cross the width of the court. The Russian then seized the first game.

The situation was unchanged at the beginning of the second game but in the third game Draper made several easy mistakes, including not hitting the court from the fly in a winning position. Rublev again got a triple break point and converted his second try after a good reception of his second serve. The British player had his chance next, though. He rebounded, played to Andrew on the backhand, saved his shots on the forehand and made two break points. But Rublev won the shootout on the backhand line and then he switched serve and went away with 15:40. The Briton struggled some more, but the game was done.

And Karen Khachanov outplayed German qualifier Dominik Kepfer in a nearly three-hour match with great difficulty. The German tennis player has missed a lot lately due to injuries, is in the middle of the second hundred rankings, and before coming to Washington he last won at the ATP Tour level in March, after which he lost five times in the first rounds. But the match was as frustrating as possible for Khachanov.

Kepfer tried not to concede anything to Karen, although he was notably inferior in class. But the German jumped at every chance, scored break points (12 of 17 in the match) and converted three of his five chances to win another serve. Two of them came in the first game, which Dominik won on a tie-break. In the end Khachanov took the next two, but he spent a lot of energy and nerves. Probably more than he needed for the opening match.

A rout and a debut

The women’s tournament in Washington began to be held not so long ago, but in the nine years from 2011 to 2019 it was won by Nadezhda Petrova, Ekaterina Makarova and twice Svetlana Kuznetsova. And Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has reached the finals twice. In the current draw there are no Russian women among the main favorites. But Lyudmila Samsonova has already sent to rest the fifth racket Elise Mertens and Anna Kalinskaya has defeated the American veteran Madison Brengle. She is higher in the rankings but lost to the Russian player in one round. Suffice it to say that all through the match, Brengl did not take her serve once.

Although the highlight of Tuesday’s program was the match of the reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu. For Russian fans it was interesting because the tennis player who plays under the British flag recently started working with her coach Dmitry Tursunov. It is unlikely that the former player of the Russian national team could cardinally change anything in a few days for Radukanu, and Emma’s opponent in the first round was not the strongest. The third-ranked American Louise Cirico is considered a clay specialist but entered the main draw in Washington through qualification.

Although she, too, managed to give Raducanu a few unpleasant minutes. For example, the British player had a break in the first game and soon she could have led 3:0, but Chirico was much more active and quickly tied the score. The American tried to play actively and use the whole court. As a result, she hit more number of penalties and if it wasn’t for the monstrous 42 vs. 18 unnecessary errors, the situation could have been different.

But Radukanu had almost no problems on serve – the last three “own” games of the match she took without a break – and she counterattacked on someone else’s, earning break points in almost every game on reception. Emma made a key break in the first set at 4:4, and another one in the fifth game of the second game and quietly took it to victory.

Girls’ adventures in Silicon Valley

On the opposite coast of the United States there is a tournament in San Jose. Unlike the women’s portion of the Washington tournament, it has a rich history – but again without any Russian players. Anna Chakvetadze’s title in 2007 and Daria Kasatkina’s final a year ago are all our successes. This year in Silicon Valley, the same Kasatkina who had taken Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the first round, and Veronica Kudermetova – they are seeded seventh and ninth.

Kudermetova had a very unpleasant opponent in the beginning. The petite Italian Camila Giorgi has a high ranking and plays very interesting tennis. But Veronica took over her serve in the first game and took the lead. Georgie didn’t agree and was too aggressive even on receives. As a result, she won three games in a row from 2 to 4. And now it was down to the tie-break where Kudermetova overpowered her opponent.

Georgie answered in the second game with a break and tried to grab this advantage with her teeth. Kudermetova had a chance to reverse the situation as she had taken someone else’s serve twice. But the Russian did not have much success on her serve – even on the first ball she was winning ridiculously few balls. Georgi led the way to the predictable finale.

Veronica is not in the habit to play three-sets matches – she had more than a dozen of them this season with the positive balance 9:3. Though at the beginning of the decisive game she had to win back the break point again. But in the next game Kudermetova broke the serve, having mastered the back line. She had a chance to lead 4-0, but she had to break the break point and lost five points in a row.

Georgie, who had stepped back from the brink, tried with all her might to drag the Russian in a nervy end. And she did. She scored a match point in the eighth game and in the ninth game when she served she got backbreak by means of aggressive approach and mistakes of Kudermetova. Then Veronica with great difficulty took her serve at 5:5. And she finished almost three hours of the match with another break – a splendid denouement!